Customer reviews are increasingly important to all kinds of businesses, especially those that are locally based. Not only do more and more people find themselves heading to sites like Yelp! to check out what their peers have had to say about a certain business before they consider using it, the number of reviews a business has on Google Local makes a big difference as well, not only to their reputation but also to their overall SERPs visibility.
Actually, garnering these reviews from real people can be hard work and when you are already very busy, as most of us are, it can be tempting to look for shortcuts and in this case, many people turn to posting – and even paying for – fake reviews. The question is: Is there really anything good to be gained from doing this?
Yelp and Fake Reviews
As the current ‘king’ of business review sites, Yelp! is the one place many businesses really want to shine and therefore, not too surprisingly as more people realized, more fake reviews began appearing. The situation got so bad that both consumers and the media began questioning the validity of Yelp! as a helpful tool at all. This led to the company itself taking aggressive action to stamp the practice out.
Nowadays, when Yelp! discovers fake reviews, they don’t take them down and they don’t remove the businesses listing. What they do instead is add a big pop box that informs users that they are about to view a listing for a company that has, in their words, “been caught red handed paying for reviews”. Users are then offered the chance to either click through to see the proof of that or to go ahead and read what is there anyway, or both. Whatever a user decides to do at this point, the damage is done.
And how do they find these reviews? Well, not only do they keep an eye for unusual user accounts activity and IP addresses (a restaurant in New Jersey getting 19 great reviews from a user whose IP address pegs them in Asia is a little unusual – you would have to agree) but they also have a little sting team of their own on the case as well.
Google and Fake Reviews
Posting fake reviews on Google may be even riskier as not only do you risk your company’s reputation but its standing in the SERPs as well. It is rare for Google to go in for public shaming in the way that Yelp! do (although they have been known to), they simply serve up a SERPs penalty instead and not just against your Google presence but often against your website as well.
And by the way, it is not just fake reviews Google penalize for, they also frown on paid reviews as well, much in the same way as they do paid links.
Fake reviews on Your Own Site
So, how about if you add a few not so real reviews to your own site, that can’t be so bad right? Wrong. By doing so, you are making a direct attempt to fool potential customers and if you are rumbled for that, very few consumers will ever forgive you. This also holds true for having employees, friends or family post for you as well. In an increasingly connected world, it is actually very easy for people to make the connections between the business and these people rather quickly as well, especially via social media, making you look silly as well as dishonest.